School’s Out for Summer — But Fears of Regression Looms for Parents of Kids with Autism

dandelion“I Hate Summer” was a recent post by Laura Rossi Totten on The Huffington Post. She writes,

Special Needs Parenting is challenging 365 days of the year. Unlike the shorter winter break or spring vacation, summer is unique because it is long and most special needs children now expect the routine, support, predictability and familiarity of the school year. Frequently, school-age special needs children struggle with the concept of time and that contributes to the confusion and anxiety many children experience during these three months.

What’s a parent to do? What options exist?

For parents who are looking for ways to keep their kids progressing (whether they’re Aspies, high-functioning, or non-verbal), there are few inexpensive options to turn to during the summer months. We recently spoke with Robyn Catagnus, EdD, BCBA-D of Rethink Autism to learn more about the online curriculum they offer parents.

MyAutismTeam interview with Robyn Catagnus, EdD, BCBA-D of Rethink Autism

Q:  The ultimate “transition strategy” by Dr. Peter Gerhardt, President and Chair of the Scientific Council at the Organization for Autism Research — a behaviorist who has taken part in a webinar for Rethink Autism — has been emulated by therapists around the country:

  • If you can teach the skill, teach it
  • If you can’t teach the skill, adapt it
  • If you can’t adapt it, figure out some way around it
  • If you can’t figure out some way around it, teach the neuro typicals to deal.

How does this apply — if at all — to the type of online curriculum Rethink Autism offers parents, which they leverage at home with their own kids?

Rethink Autism also begins with an effort to teach skills directly. Our program includes lesson plans and videos that demonstrate how to teach every skill in an entire curriculum for areas such as expressive language, receptive language, social and emotional, play and leisure, pre-academics, early academics, daily living, and motor skills. Every lesson and video has several ideas for adapting the skill or instruction specifically for your child. The program offers many ways to think systematically about your child’s needs, and allows for simple, effective data collection so you can see how things are working.  The ideas and repeated practice with teaching helps parents figure out ways around issues that arise. The Behavior Tracker module in Rethink Autism is another great tool to work around behaviors by assisting parents with identifying patterns and providing support and interventions based on that information.

Q: What kind of parent most benefits from Rethink Autism?

Any parent who wants to help their child learn new skills or decrease problem behavior could benefit from Rethink Autism. Parents can use the strategies even if they are beginners with ABA, and the program can be used as a source of ideas and everyday strategies, or as an intensive behavioral intervention program.

Q: Is this the same as homeschooling?

Rethink Autism does not require homeschooling. It is a curriculum to address the intervention needs of learners with autism spectrum disorders. It includes easy-to-use lesson plans, videos, data collection tools, reporting, and behavioral tracking and assessment tools. Those strategies and tools can be applied in any learning setting – home, community settings, public school, pre-school, home school, and more. It even helps parents and professionals communicate and document intervention across all those settings, empowering the parent to see all their child’s information and participate in teaching and programming.

Q: If my child has never been introduced to ABA therapy techniques, what should I expect?

You can expect your child to enjoy learning and develop new skills! Positive reinforcement is an important part of teaching with these techniques, so parents learn to engage children in a fun, educational way. Our videos show many strategies that help children learn quickly and effectively, while making very few errors. It is more fun to learn when you are successful and receive recognition or rewards for your efforts. The strategies are also very systematic and thoughtful in order to maximize learning every day. Even if you and your child have never been introduced to ABA, you will find the lessons very understandable, easy to use, and effective.

Q: Is this for parents of young children only? Or only parents of kids who are verbal?

Our lessons address a wide range of skills, abilities, and behavioral needs for children from age 18-months through early adolescence developmentally. There are lessons for children who communicate vocally or non-vocally. The first step is a brief assessment to determine the skill level of your child in various domains, and the program recommends lessons personalized for their needs. The curriculum ranges from skills needed by early learner for the very basics of communication, social interactions, or problem behavior- and the lessons progress gradually to address complex skills in every domain. As your child develops, the program grows and changes with them!

Q: What tips do you have for parents just starting with Rethink Autism’s online curriculum?

I recommend that you start with a few lessons, perhaps two or three. Select lessons that you and your child are likely to do well, leading to success. Be patient with yourself and your child. Most importantly, stick with it! After some practice, the process becomes familiar and comfortable, so you can expand, teaching more lessons and challenging your child to learn even more.

Q: What is Rethink Autism, not?

Rethink Autism is not meant to be a substitute for services or support by a trained autism expert or board certified behavior analyst. Ideally, when possible, our program can be used as a way to enhance team coordination and enhance any direct services a child receives. It is critical to have a clear path of learning, data for decisions, collaboration, and excellent teaching. Rethink Autism provides parents with the tools to ensure these elements of successful intervention for their teams.

Q: What can parents expect after a few months?

Expect to notice your child demonstrating new skills and having fewer problem behaviors. Using Rethink Autism works and parents around the world see meaningful changes after just weeks or months. When your child is learning and there are fewer problem behaviors, it really makes family life easier and more enjoyable. Such outcomes can be life changing for everyone in the family.

Rethink Autism has offered parents from MyAutismTeam a special discounted offer: 25% off the quarterly package price. In the promotional code field, simply type:  MAT25  to receive the offer. You’ll receive a 3-month curriculum to use with your child for less than $180 (plus, a consultation call free of charge). The regular price is $240.

If you try this service offered by Rethink Autism, let us know if it’s helped your child this summer. If it’s effective at helping your child progress, definitely add Rethink Autism to your provider team. We welcome your feedback on all services we bring to the community. MyAutismTeam strives to provide services and products at discounted rates for our parent community. Thank you for your continuous feedback and participation within the MyAutismTeam community.

4 thoughts on “School’s Out for Summer — But Fears of Regression Looms for Parents of Kids with Autism

  1. As someone who has had a LOT of regressions in their life,I always thought real regression was due to something physical,like illness,fever,or seizure.

    There is a difference between losing ground and true regression.

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